The very first day Raymond joined the Farming Unit reeled before Patrick like the plate of rice on his table. It was on a Wednesday. He, Samuel and other Monks on that team were on their way to complete the sowing which they couldn’t finish the previous day when Raymond called out to them. He stopped and patted Samuel who stopped also. Raymond approached and asked if he could join them. After much deliberation on how the Prior would frown at it, and Raymond assuring them that the Prior would not fault his actions, they gave their consent, warning him not to mention their names should Yurik or Prior question his actions. He scurried back to the Presbytery and in a jiffy returned, stripped of his Habit.
His knee length shorts revealed his hairy and smooth legs. His protruded chest pumped out in the T-shirt, doing more than cover his nakedness.
Samuel sneered at him. “You still have these?”
“Not now, brother, please.” He smiled. “The team has gone.”
“You know,” Patrick looked around. “If Father Hysom sees you in this, he would be very angry with you.”
“Well, he will not see me. They are having a pastoral meeting in Prior’s office.”
Samuel swallowed hard and stepped closer to him. “Even if he doesn’t see you, you need to stop wearing these kinds of clothes. They are too fitted for you, for a monk.”
“All my clothes are like this. And until I get to shop again…” He paused; a soft smile emitted his mouth. “Can we go to the farm already, please? The sun is coming out.”
Patrick glanced at Samuel, a suspicious glance that weaned out with a shrug. Samuel smirked and they headed towards the farm.
When they stepped into the seven hectares of land behind the residential area of the Priory, Raymond smiled. He took time admiring the young maize and vegetables sprouting out on the lined ridges.
Patrick glanced at him. The smiled on his face was something he would not understand even in decades. How could any sane man prefer the comfy of the Prior’s office to the disturbing nature of farming, the scourging of the sun and sometimes the drenching of the rain? His thoughts became known as they forced themselves out of his mouth.
Raymond glanced at him, then turned to the farm and smiled. “Variety is the spice of life, brother. I am not ready to die from the monotony of typing in Prior’s computer.”
Patrick walked pass him into the farm, treading with caution to avoid marching vegetable buds crossing the ridges. “I really wouldn’t mind dying of such monotony.”
“Well, that is life. People wish to be what or where they are not, only to get there and discover that their former place was better.” Raymond squatted and brushed the maize and vegetables. “They are beautiful.”
“Sure they are.” Samuel patted his shoulder and followed Patrick.
Raymond scoffed and strolled behind them, looking around the farm with paramount interest.
They walked past the green land into a sandy plot. The plot was divided into three. One is ridged, with seeds planted. Another is ridged but not yet planted. Then at the extremes end was another half, not ridged. Three tractors of different sizes were lined up in it. Just between the ridged half and the other half was a small detached farmhouse. Patrick made towards the farm house, removing sticks and obstacles on his way. “Being the Prior’s secretary is the dream of every Novice, and you are just a Postulant.” Patrick halted. “Did you hear that?”
“Hear what?” Samuel halted and listened.
“I think I heard people talking in the farmhouse.”
“Of course our team are there.”
He sighed and continued towards the farmhouse. “Anyway, as I was saying Brother Raymond, it’s not every day that one gets access to a computer and many spiritual books. It’s a privilege, brother, believe it or not.”
“You know you can apply to Prior for this post.” Samuel brushed past him. “You have talked enough to warrant us think you are lamenting.”
“What? I am not lamenting.” He boggled. “I am only at wonder as why he would want something like this other than…”
Raymond chuckled. “Things are not always what they seem like, brother. And what use is the computer without internet connection? It’s like a car without a steering.”
“There is internet connection.” Samuel said. “But it’s limited. And I think it is good for us all.”
“Come to think of it,” Raymond halted. He was not going to allow them hit him without firing back. “You two serve at mass every day. What else is more honourable and spiritual-driven than that? Or do you think there is a better way to define closeness to God other than that?”
Samuel and Patrick stared at his smiling face for some time. He titled his head and shrugged.
“You are right,” Samuel said.
“Even at that, acolytes do not have access to many spiritual books as you do.”
“Do you care about something else other than books, brother?” Samuel sneered at him. “We have a well equipped library. You can get any book that you want there.” He halted, took in a deep air and sighed. “The truth is, we all got our different assignments, designed to move the Priory forward and also for the growth of our spiritual man. I think we should just be contended with where we are, all of us.”
“Your smartness sometimes eludes me, brother.” Raymond patted him. “Now shall we do some sowing?”
Patrick inhaled and exhaled same way before making for the farmhouse. Steps closer, he halted. The voices were more audible but more sparse than the team members could produce. Samuel and Patrick also heard it. He turned to look at them. Samuel signalled him to open the door. He stepped forward but was halted by a crowdy noise coming behind them. The trio looked back and saw the team members ambling towards the farmhouse, unperturbed. Patrick boggled and moved aside, ushering Samuel to step forward. Samuel stared at him for some seconds, shook his head and moved towards the door.
His hands on the door knob, he halted. “I think it’s Brother Yurik?”
“He never comes this early to the farm. But you might be right. Open up.” Patrick stepped backwards, colliding with Raymond. He staggered in Raymond’s arms and regained his balance. Raymond walked past him and Samuel and pushed the door open. For some seconds he stood at the door, frozen. Samuel and Patrick stood behind him, terrified. Their necks elongated as they tried to gain sight of the individual in the house.
He staggered into Raymond’s arms and regained his balance. Raymond walked past him and Samuel and pushed the door open. For some seconds he stood at the door, frozen. Samuel and Patrick stood behind him, terrified. Their necks elongated as they tried to gain sight of the individuals in the house.
The farmhouse was a small wooden house with a medium size window. On the left hand side was a counter, housing different shapes and sizes of hoes, cutlasses, pans, axes, and small rubber plates stacked up in a double file. Different grains and seeds were packs in their bags and stacked in another counter stretched under the first one. On the floor were crushed grains and seeds. Rakes, sickles, ploughs, shovels and diggers, arranged in sizes and shapes dangled down the wall on the left. Behind the door were spoilt farm implements, reserved for the use of their good parts. At the centre of the room was a long table with five chairs around it.
“Brother Raymond?” Yurik stood up from the chair. He was dressed in shorts and polo, sizable enough to hide his biceps and chest. “What are you doing here?” He boggled at his outfit, the tight nature and the way it showcased his muscles like he was on a contest.
“I told you, that is brother Yurik.” Samuel jeered at Patrick before walking into the farmhouse. “Greetings, brother.” He bowed at Yurik. “Greetings Father.” He bowed at Reatherford.
Reatherford reciprocated with a smile. He was an average man with a cute smile. He adjusted his sitting posture, watching the frozen Raymond with a great surprise.
Patrick brushed Raymond as he walked in and greeted the duo. Raymond jerked back to reality and stuttered a faint greeting.
“You are supposed to be in Prior’s office,” Yurik said. “What are you doing here?”
“I finished my assignment so I decided to join in the farm.”
“I hope Prior knows where to find you in case he needs you?”
Raymond nodded, unsure of himself.
“Okay.” Yurik turned at Patrick and Samuel as they bring small packs of grains out of the big bag on the counter. He nodded and turned to Raymond again. “Alright, you pack the plates over there.” He pointed at a rubber plates stacked at the upper counter. And as Raymond moved to the counter, he scoffed. “When we get back to Presbytery, bring me these clothes. They are not your size.”
Raymond halted in shock. He reversed to look at Yurik. Their eyes met and Yurik nodded. He bowed and proceeded to the counter.
Yurik looked around. “Where are others?”
“Behind us, brother,” Patrick said, his head buried a sack of grain.
Reatherford shook his head. A week in the Priory and he was yet to fully understand the modus operand of the Monks.
The next minute, they all were out of the farmhouse, with hoes, cutlasses and grains and the plates, ready to start the work of the day.
“How about making ridges?” Patrick said to Raymond. “It would add to the variety you seek.”
“No way!” Raymond’s heart skipped. The saliva in his mouth dried up and his chest thrust up and down following the tensed beating of his heart.
“Why?” Samuel asked.
“I don’t like driving. It freaks me out.”
“This is not a car. It’s a tractor.”
“Well, it has wheels and steering, and I fear those.” He picked a packet of pumpkin seeds and emptied it into a plate. “Where do I start, Brother?” He gazed at Yurik.
“You have not driven before, have you?” Yurik asked.
He shook his head.
“Okay.” He pointed at seven monks. “We are going to make ridges.” He pointed another six monks which included Patrick, Samuel and Raymond. “Take care of the sowing. And the rest of you clear thoes woods off the uncultivated lands.” He turned to Reatherford. “Father?”
“I will join the sowing team.” Reatherford picked a packet of grain with a smile.
Patrick and Samuel picked corn and pumpkin respectively.
Yurik picked a cutlass and walked to a ridge, pulled a long stick from it and turned to them. “This is where we stopped yesterday. Corn at the lower part of the ridges, pumpkin at the tip. Each seed one foot apart. Alright?”
The nodded before stepping into the ridges. Patrick leads with the grains, while Raymond ambled behind him, dipping the pumpkin seeds in the ridges in a lethargic way.
Other teams dispersed to duty same way, each doing his job with joy.
…the story continues…
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